People of All Religions Use Birth Control and Have Abortions

Rachel K. Jones, Guttmacher Institute

People of all faiths and religions want, need and use reproductive health care services. In fact, the most recent data show that more than 99% of people in the United States who identify as religious have ever used contraceptive methods such as the birth control pill, IUDs and condoms; only 1% have solely used natural family planning.*

The percentage of women who have ever used a contraceptive method other than natural family planning is nearly the same across different religions. According to newly updated 2017 data:

  • 99.6% of women with no religious affiliation have done so;                  
  • 99.0% of Catholics;
  • 99.4% of mainline Protestants;
  • 99.3% of evangelical Protestants; and
  • 95.7% of people with other religious affiliations.

And if we break it down even further by current contraceptive type among women who are at risk of unintended pregnancy, we find that people across religious affiliations use the full spectrum of methods. For example:

  • Among Catholic women: 25% use sterilization, 15% use long-acting reversible contraceptives (like IUDs) and 25% use hormonal methods (like birth control pills).
  • Among mainline Protestant women: 26% use sterilization, 14% use long-acting reversible contraceptives and 28% use hormonal methods.
  • Among evangelical Protestant women: 36% use sterilization, 15% use long-acting reversible contraceptives and 20% use hormonal methods.

The same goes for abortion. In fact, research has consistently shown that the majority of people who obtain an abortion have a religious affiliation. According to the most recent Guttmacher Institute data, in 2014:

  • 17% of abortion patients identified as mainline Protestant;
  • 13% as evangelical Protestant;
  • 24% as Catholic;
  • 38% reported no religious affiliation; and
  • 8% reported some other affiliation.

The bottom line is that people of all religions use reproductive health services, including contraceptive care and abortion. Everyone deserves access to affordable and quality care that meets their individual needs with dignity and compassion.


*Natural family planning, more formally known as fertility awareness-based methods, encompasses a range of methods including periodic abstinence, temperature rhythm and cervical mucus tests. These methods are the only type of contraception approved by the Catholic church hierarchy.

These data come from the 2015–2017 National Survey of Family Growth, administered by the National Center for Health Statistics, and pertain to women aged 15–44.

At risk of unintended pregnancy means they had sex in the last three months, were not infertile, pregnant or postpartum, and were not trying to get pregnant at the time of the survey.

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